This summer marks three years since we moved into our house.
✨ I remember the very first time that I saw what would eventually become my home. It was the moment that truly defined the phrase love at first sight. ✨
At the time, we weren't really looking to buy a house. Having just got married, it was definitely on the agenda, but we hadn't given the practicalities much thought. In fact, we had only recently decided on an area, after months of bickering.
Josh's criteria for home-owning consisted of preferably a new-build with modern features, good public transport links and a decent supermarket.
And me? Well, I just wanted to live in the countryside
I have always lived in the country.
I think I took it for granted at the time because I didn't know any different, but it really was such a privilege to grow up in such safe and beautiful surroundings. Village shows, farms, riding schools, endless walking routes around the Peak District, and cute little shops selling locally sourced produce were just the norm throughout my childhood.
I have such fond memories of walking the dog with my Mum for hours through fields and along the canal after school.
The view from my childhood bedroom at my Mum's is of roaring hillsides that tumble away into the horizon. On a clear day, it is possible to see the imposing outline of Kinder Scout.
Josh is a town boy, born and bred.
When we first started dating. I think it's fair to say that he suffered a degree of 'culture shock' when visiting me at my Mum's house 'in the sticks.'
One evening back in the early days of our relationship, we were at my Mum's and struggling to decide what to have for tea.
"Why don't we get a takeaway?" Josh suggested. "I'll have a look on Just Eat."
I watched him consult his phone, brow furrowing in confusion.
"Nothing's coming up?"
"We don't get Just Eat here. And good luck if you ever want to book an Uber!"
Josh looked horror-stricken.
"Where's the nearest supermarket?"
"A 20 minute drive away. But we've got the little local shop and a bakery, although that shuts at 4..."
In stark contrast, when I went to Josh's for the first time, I may as well have been in Vegas. There was a luxurious choice of trains, trams AND busses, and even a 'Big Tesco!' 🤯
We debated over the best place to live for months without conclusion. Josh wanted more of an urban area, whereas I was dead-set on continuing my country living
"I just want to live somewhere that has a local bakery, a greengrocers and a farm shop," I said.
"Yeah, well, I want a Subway, a Cineworld and a train service that operates more than once a day!" was Josh's reply.
In early 2020, we went to visit some friends who had just moved to a village we'd never heard of... And the rest is history!
While still rural, our village is ideally located for both of our jobs and, without sounding like I'm commenting an episode of Escape to the Country, 'it has good local amenities!' 🤣
It's bigger than where I grew up (much to Josh's relief), but still maintains that traditional olde-worlde village feel that I love so much.
Even Josh was smitten after our very first visit.
And so we had finally decided on an area to live; now we just had to wait for an ideal house to come up, although as I said, we weren't in any rush and didn't think it would happen anytime soon...
In March 2020, a house popped up on Rightmove, and I was instantly besotted.
✨ Small but more than perfectly formed, it shyly oozed character with its beams and exposed brickwork. Ivy clung to its exterior in a curtain of emerald curls. The large, wild back garden gave way to the rambling woodland beyond. ✨
It definitely wasn't a new-build, and none of its features could have been remotely described as 'modern,' but there was definitely something about it that we just couldn't put our finger on.
It reminded me very much of a tinier version of the adorable cottage belonging to Kate Winslet's character in the film The Holiday.
It was a week before the first UK lockdown, and while we had savings, we hadn't a clue how to go about buying a house. But not owning this house was never an option. It was always going to be this house.
"I'm going to buy that house," I declared. "No matter what it takes."
... What it took was five months of stress and numerous threats of divorce!
Due to the lockdown, we had to view the house virtually. It sounds reckless, but that was enough for me - I was genuinely ready to make an offer! It's not like me to be so impulsive, but 'when you know, you know!'
We finally got to see the house in person in May 2020, and it was everything I had hoped for, and more. It had enchanted me on pictures, but I totally fell under its spell the moment we pulled up outside.
Don't get me wrong: the house isn't visually spectacular in any way. It's incredibly small - hardly big enough to house the hamster, in-fact (Pumpkin, am I right?).
It's old, and yes, there always seems to be something wrong with it.
The garden - if not tended to almost daily - wouldn't look out of place on a documentary filmed in the depths of a Costa Rican jungle.
✨ Despite this, the house just has this incredible aura that I still can't quite explain. From the second I saw that very first picture, I just knew that that was where I was supposed to live. ✨
My face must have said it all, because the estate agent burst out laughing and advised me to never play poker!
Later, the estate agent came in from showing Josh's Dad the garden and found me making plans for the position of the Christmas tree. After just half an hour in the presence of the house, I had already pretty much moved in. There was never any doubt.
We put an offer in approximately an hour after our viewing.
A tense few days followed as other viewings went ahead and numerous offers were considered. I was constantly on edge, glued to my phone. I didn't even want to consider what would happen if another offer was accepted. It sounds stupid, but I honestly couldn't imagine myself ever feeling such a connection to another house.
I was out on a run when Josh called to say that the house was ours.
It was just meant to be.
✨ Sometimes, I still can't believe that we own this house. I still aesthetically admire it just as much as I did the very first time I saw it, but the love runs much deeper now. ✨
We used to say that our holidays were our 'bubble.' This bubble symbolised precious time together - just the two of us. Space away from the interferences of the outside world. Time to strip life right back to its glorious simplicities and drown out the background noise.
Our house is now our bubble.
What a pleasure it is, when coming home feels like going on holiday. ❤️
My home, and the village we are lucky enough to live in, are my holiday away from reality.
I often get off the train a couple of stops early on the way back from work and walk home along the valley. Whatever stresses the day has brought are quickly banished with every step I take.
The fields shimmy with a boundless carpet of dandelion wishes, and I smile because it feels as though my wishes have already come true.
When part of your commute consists of infinite country lanes and delicate bluebell woods, what more could you possibly ask for in life?
If the weather is fair, I stop off at the farm shop for a milkshake, made with milk from the on-site cows.
At weekends, we buy fresh bread and cakes from the local bakery and wander home to the sound of church bells.
Our lives are miraculously content and blindingly happy.
Josh, a once-loyal townie, even downloaded the Big Butterfly Count app last year!
✨ Making a house a home is requires so much more than just a lick of paint, a deep clean and a barrage of trendy new fumiture. Memories and laughter are what really make a house a home, as cliché as it might sound. ✨
Breakfast with my book, overlooking the garden.
Watching the woodpeckers, blue jays and wood pigeons nesting in our trees.
Greeting our regular robin as he leaps onto the washing line and inquisitively peers through the kitchen window at us. ('Yo! Where my fat balls at?!')
Waking up beneath those beams on a lazy Bank Holiday to the sound of rain against the windowpane and knowing that - blissfully - we have absolutely no where else to be.
Our homemade pizza Saturdays, when flour floods the kitchen, the walls are spattered with tomato sauce, and the whole house smells of dough.
Harry Potter nights under the duvet in winter.
Too many celebrations to count: birthdays, Christmases, new jobs, published books, the Queen's Jubilee, the King's Coronation...
Lighting my 'fresh cut roses' Yankee candle on Sunday morning.
Toasting marshmallows in the garden on bonfire night.
When I got impatient waiting for the lawnmower to arrive and tackled the grass with kitchen scissors.
That time Josh surprised me with a 'homemade rave' on New Year's Eve, and we danced around the living room with glow sticks until 3am. The hamster even joined in the festivities in her ball, rolling around after us.
✨ We spend so much our lives focusing on the 'big' events, yet we fail to realise what an honour it is to fill our everyday with such contentment. It really is the little moments that mean the most. ✨
These moments might not be social media worthy, but they are so important. They're the moments that keep us sane amidst the mundane.
I can't think of a more divine setting for these moments than my house.
When we moved in, the house was a blank canvas, tentatively poised, holding the brush out to us. We have painted it with our memories.
It is a huge blessing and a gift to feel so settled and so rapturous in the place you call home.
Last autumn, while in Hay-on-Wye, I picked up a book by Leslie Scrase, titled It's Another World.
The blurb consists of a quote taken from the book, whereby the author is describing his own house, and nothing has ever resonated with me more:
✨'There is something we have known ever since we came to this house, without ever understanding what it was. From the very beginning we have known that there was a rightness, about this place which went far beyond anything we have experienced before. It goes way beyond the simple matter of being pleased with a house and buying it. Everything in our lives is about as perfect as life can ever be...' ✨
Cara Jasmine Bradley ©